We recently spoke with Nicole Shahenian, who works with the East Hollywood Business Improvement District and the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, two of our fabulous local campaign partners in East Hollywood. Read what she had to say about her passion for trees and the important role they play in strengthening local commerce and the community.
We are thrilled to get to speak with you today. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your current position?
My name is Nicole Shahenian, and I am the Vice President of Public Policy at the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce. I also serve as an Executive Director of EHBID, or East Hollywood Business Improvement District, which the Chamber helps administer. I’ve been with the Chamber for about five years.
Do you have any special memories of playing in green spaces as a child?
When I was younger, we went on a lot of camping trips, so I have always appreciated green space. I also have lots of fond memories of having birthday parties in parks. It’s a shame—this is something I don’t see too much of these days, especially in Hollywood.
How did you first hear about Invest From the Ground Up, and why did you choose to get involved?
The Los Angeles Beautification Team (LABT) had already planted 100 trees along Vermont Avenue as part of a treescape project. So, when LABT’s Sharyn Romano told me about Invest From the Ground Up, I thought it sounded like a wonderful idea and a natural next step in our work together along the Vermont corridor.
I’ve personally always been passionate about green spaces, so this campaign reinforces what I already believe. It’s offered me a way to further that passion.
For East Hollywood, which is such an urban center, the trees along pedestrian-oriented Vermont Avenue offer much-needed shade and make the boulevard feel more communal.
The community here already appreciates and embraces the importance of trees in this area. It’s great that everyone is very excited.
Well, that is great to hear! What do you find most challenging about advocating for green space among businesses?
It’s always a challenge for business owners to really think about the long term. We are so caught up in the short term: What’s going to benefit our business today? What’s going to deliver increased revenue tomorrow?
There are so many benefits to trees—but what we really need to reinforce is that we are investing in the community for the long haul. That’s why we are getting involved—to help business owners understand the long-term benefits.
What would you tell someone who is skeptical of “investing from the ground up”?
It would be helpful for us to start pointing out the existing green spaces we do have and how much they are actually utilized and what they do for the entire community. For example, I would emphasize the overall health benefits of having a greener community and how it promotes walkability.
Greenery gets people out and about, visiting their neighbors and shops and each other. People don’t necessarily stop and think about that—unless we point it out. So, I would say to people using existing pocket parks: “Look at how much you already use this one space. Now imagine if we had dozens of them!”
Thanks for your time and all of the great work you do!